What sort of leader are you? Are you a coach and mentor? Do you define goals and take a hands-off attitude? Whatever style you prefer, there’s one leadership skill that will undoubtedly take you to the next level: Empathy.
Unfortunately, according to a Fortune survey, only 7% of CEOs believe that their companies are building effective global leaders. Just 10% said that their leadership development initiatives have a clear business impact. Another study found that 82% of the people reporting to a manager, saw positive behavioral changes with leadership training. And 81% of those reporting to recently trained managers said they were more engaged in their jobs. Therefore, Leadership skill development efforts are definitely important.
Leadership skills such as performance management, conflict resolution, building trust, and leading change are essential. But there’s one dimension that next-level leaders never ignore: They put people first! To manage their business, they manage their people. Such leadership quality is even more critical in uncertain times and goes a long way in motivating employees.
The Merits of a People-First Approach
Companies with a healthy, people-first culture show better results and create happier employees. It’s the kind of place that you’d love to lead, right?
According to Kris Boesch, founder and CEO of Choose People and author of Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace, such organisations make 26% fewer mistakes. They have 22% higher productivity, 41% lower absenteeism, and 30% stronger customer satisfaction. Those are some great statistics!. And behind them are leadership traits that result in engaged employees and happy customers.
Five Steps to the Next Level
Developing the leadership quality of empathy is simple. But remember, it won’t happen overnight. As with every other goal, you have to put in the time and effort each day, to make a change.
Here are five effective steps to help you further develop the qualities of a good leader.
Treat your employees as human beings. Open your ears to what they have to say about their work and the obstacles that they face. Respond in kind as a peer, and not just as a manager.
Remove doubts and fears. Tell your people that you’re there for them. Pat your employees on the back when they do well and show them the way when they’re lost.
Try and match skills with jobs. Some people will be excellent at certain tasks, and others will be skilled in other roles. Try not to force-fit a round peg into a square hole.
Create flexibility. Allow people to work from home, or with accommodating office hours if there are genuine causes. Rules are there to serve a purpose, but they can also be changed for the right reasons.
Win over your employees with actions that match your words. Simplify procedures and provide opportunities. If you go the extra mile for them, they’ll be happy to do the same for you.
None of the above means that you give up reaching for a goal, or lose focus on key performance indicators. You can put people first as a means of reaching your defined objectives. Sometimes, this will mean providing critical feedback. However, it’s important to do this with empathy and understanding.
To Sum Up
Let’s end with an example of what the people-first approach can achieve.
Marriott International, a Fortune 500 business, started life as a nine-stool root beer stand in Washington D.C. From the start, the founders had one motto: “If we take care of our people, they will take care of our customers, and the customers will come back.” Even during the Great Depression, they took steps such as hiring a staff doctor to make sure their people had health care. The results justified this approach.
Empathy can take you and your business a long way. As a leader, if you look after your people, they’ll care for you and your organisation in return.